“That’s what journalism is. To take something everybody knows and penetrate the depths.”
No object is too small, no subject too insignificant, difficult or uncomfortable, for Lennart Nilsson. In 1976, he decided to take the first microscopic photograph of a mosquito bite. Together with his friend Berndt Ödarp, an entomologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, he travelled around Sweden to collect suitable mosquitoes. Back at the Karolinska Instituted laboratory, Berndt volunteered as the first victim.
“For nearly three years, I tried to photograph a mosquito sucking blood from a human. Eventually I got the picture of the proboscis piercing the skin. In order to photograph it on human skin, I needed an exceedingly generous volunteer. Just as the mosquito settled, it was sprayed with nerve gas, whereupon both skin and insect were removed with a scalpel from the volunteer’s anaesthetised arm. Thanks to this dramatic method, the penetration could be photographed for the first time.”